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Spartans open new season tonight

Superior High School football coach Bob DeMeyer rallies the Spartans during the scrimmage last Friday at Rice Lake High School. The Spartans host Merrill at 7 p.m. today at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)1 / 2
Superior High School quarterback Gunner Johnson throws a pass during Friday’s scrimmage in Rice Lake. The Spartans open the season against Merrill at 7 p.m. today at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com) 2 / 2

The 2016 Superior High School football team was left with some pretty big shoes to fill.

Five Spartans off last year’s team and are now playing college football, including Ross Kennelly (North Dakota State), Beau Reder and Mitch Anderson (Minnesota Duluth), Keegan Stanley (Minnesota State Mankato) and Beau Girard (Bemidji State).

Kennelly led the Spartans on both sides of the ball last season. He had 870 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns on offense and on defense he had a team-high 109 tackles, including 18 tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries.

“This will be the first time Ross hasn’t been around our program in 11 years,” SHS coach Bob DeMeyer said. “He started out as a ball boy and has been with us in some capacity for a long time. It’s been odd without him here, but he’s in a great place and he’s having a blast.

“He’s getting a lot thrown at him, it’s a huge change, but he’s very happy with his decision to attend North Dakota State.”

Girard added 429 yards rushing and 188 yards receiving, while Anderson was the top pass catcher with 220 yards. Both Anderson and Girard had 12 receptions.

Leading the new wave of Spartans this year are senior quarterback Gunner Johnson; senior wide receiver/kicker Sam Kline; senior lineman Josiah McDonald; and junior defensive back Max Plunkett.

Johnson started all 10 games at QB last season, completing 54-of-131 passes for 789 yards, four touchdowns and seven interceptions.

“Gunner is doing a fantastic job,” DeMeyer said. “He makes good decisions, takes care of the football, which is the No. 1 thing we ask of our quarterbacks, or anyone who touches the ball.”

Plunkett and McDonald are the top defensive players returning 44 and 43 tackles, respectively, from last season. Four of McDonald’s tackles were for losses and Plunkett had two interceptions.

Kline only had three catches for 40 yards last season, but the Spartans relied heavily on his foot, as he made 7-of-8 field-goal attempts and was 29-of-30 on extra points.

Two of his field goals were game-winners. His third-quarter field goal provided the winning points in a 10-7 win over Hudson, and a 35-yard field goal with 40.9 seconds remaining gave the Spartans a 31-28 homecoming win over Menomonie.

“Sam is a very nice weapon to have,” DeMeyer said. “He improved as an overall athlete because of the work he put in during the offseason and that has helped him as a wide receiver and a kicker.”

The Spartans tuned up for the season with their annual scrimmage at Rice Lake. Also in attendance was Somerset.

“The scrimmage went well and we got out of it exactly what we wanted to,” DeMeyer said. “We found out some things we need to work on, positions where we need to create a little more depth and where we need spend a little more time developing kids.

“We also found out where we’re at as a team and what we need to do to get ready for the Merrill Bluejays.”

The Spartans host the Bluejays at 7 p.m. today at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex.

Merrill’s roster includes two players that will play Division 1 football in the future.

Jake Collinsworth, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker/fullback, chose to be a preferred walk-on with the Wisconsin Badgers instead of accepting a Division II scholarship offer from Minnesota Duluth, while Jonathan Gruetzmacher, a 6-9, 303-pound offensive lineman, has committed to play football for South Dakota State.

Last season Collinsworth led the Bluejays with 73 tackles (53 solo) on defense and rushed for 442 yards and four touchdowns on offense.

“They’re both the real deal,” DeMeyer said. “From what we hear they are a much improved team, and that’s supported by what we saw on film from their scrimmage.

“They return, I believe, 13 starters. They’re big, strong and have more speed than they did last year.”

Superior won 50-20 last season at Merrill. Collinsworth scored two of the Bluejays’ touchdowns on runs of 1 and 4 yards.

The Spartans are looking to improve on last year’s season which saw them go 6-4 overall, 4-3 in the Big Rivers Conference and lose to Chippewa Falls 28-6 in the first round of the playoffs.

“I love the way our kids come to practice every day, always ready to go,” DeMeyer said. “We expect to be get better every single day, and so far we’re doing that. We also expect our leaders to set the pace. That’s also happening and the younger kids are following along. As long as that continues, it’s going to be a fun year for everybody.”

SPARTAN SPIN: The Spartans also defeated the Bluejays 31-7 in the first game at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex on Aug. 29, 2014. … DeMeyer begins his 11th season as head coach of the Spartans with records of 49-47 overall and 34-34 in the BRC. … Since finishing 0-9 in 2010, Superior is 31-18 overall and 20-15 in the BRC, including 11-1 and 7-0 in 2014. … Longtime SHS freshman head coach Mike Weinandt is now the team statistician, Mike Gogolin is the athletic trainer and Tom Lozon is the equipment manager. … This year’s team managers include Katie Olson, Rianna Fortin, Ari Persons, Rachael Jackman and Cassidy Chaffey.

Offense

Joining Johnson in the offensive backfield are junior tailbacks Gunnar Gronski and Joe Carter. Six players vying for slot back positions are seniors Zach Tharge, CJ Fortune, Blake Graskey and Tre Knight; juniors Corey Sanders and Luke Drougas; and sophomore Conner Fonger.

“They are young as far as varsity play time, but they are progressing very well,” DeMeyer said. “They’re well ahead of the learning curve and we expect them all to contribute.”

Gronski, Carter, Drougas and Fortune combined for 5 yards rushing on eight carries.

Returning starters on the offensive line are juniors Sam Oosten and Oscar Flaherty. Battling for playing time will be seniors Christian Pettit, McDonald and Jarret Fernandez; juniors Michael LaJoie, DJ Martin and Dylan Lowney; and sophomores Lars Root and Nathan Peterson.

“Sam and Oscar have had good camps so far,” DeMeyer said. “They’re expected to be leaders and they’re very solid players.”

Backing up Johnson at quarterback is junior Spencer Udeen and the third quarterback on the depth chart is Drougas, who is a starting at defensive back and is slot back on offense.

“Spencer has been very competitive trying to earn that spot, and right now he’s a very solid back up,” DeMeyer said. “Luke is a very versatile, athletic kid, so we will be able to turn to him if we need to.”

Johnson’s main targets at wide receiver are Kline and Plunkett, while fighting to get into the mix are seniors Nick Ferrando, Chase Elder, Nathan Tunell and Robert Rhea; and junior Dom D’Auria.

“As I said, Kline had a great offseason,” DeMeyer said. “He got faster and stronger and in my opinion he’s one of the top receivers in the conference.”

Defense

Joining Plunkett and McDonald as returning starters on defense is Sanders (40 tackles), who DeMeyer considers one of the best linebackers in the BRC, and Drougas, a defensive back.

On the defensive line are seniors Nick Schimenek and Jack Saanes; junior Lowney; and sophomores Chase Summerfield and Gabe Sexton. Martin and Flaherty will get some reps there and also provide some depth.

The outside linebackers are Graskey (29 tackles) and Tharge (39 tackles), while on the inside are Gronski (20 tackles) and Carter. Also vying for time at linebacker are senior CJ Fortune and sophomores Noah Blohm and Trevor Dalbec.

Joining Plunkett in the defensive backfield are Drougas and Elder, and juniors Drake and Devin Samarzia.

“Plunkett’s one of the best athletes in our league, he’s versatile and will help us on both defense and offense,” DeMeyer said. “McDonald’s our lead on the line and Graskey’s doing very well at OLB. He’s a veteran and varsity ready.”

Home at Rice Lake

Superior’s second game is against Holmen on Aug. 26 in Rice Lake.

“We both needed a second non-conference game and we both wanted home games, so we decided to play in Rice Lake,” DeMeyer said.

Holmen’s offense features running backs Seth Wilson and Craig Newsome Jr.

Wilson is the son of former Cincinnati Bengals running back Stanley Wilson, while Newsome’s dad, who is an assistant coach with Holmen, was a defensive back for the Green Bay Packers.

Wilson rushed for 857 yards and nine touchdowns on just 104 carries as a junior.

Superior defeated Holmen 21-0 in the opening round of the 2014 WIAA Division 2 playoffs.

Big Rivers Conference

“Chippewa Falls is going to be loaded again,” DeMeyer said. “They lost a number of key players, but they had very good JV and freshmen teams last year. They lost some top-notch kids, but they return some very special athletes.

“Hudson is going to be back up again, no question about that, and Rice Lake returns their entire offensive line and they have a heck of a quarterback. Menomonie is also going to be loaded again, and you can never count out Eau Claire Memorial North or River Falls. It’s going to be like any other year with a battle every night.”

Superior Spartans

2016 Football Schedule

Coach: Bob DeMeyer

Fri., Aug. 19     vs. Merrill, 7 p.m.

Fri., Aug. 26     vs. Holmen at Rice Lake, 7 p.m.

Fri., Sept. 2      vs. E.C. Memorial, 7 p.m.

Fri., Sept. 9      vs. Hudson, 7 p.m.

Fri., Sept. 16    at Chippewa Falls, 7 p.m.

Fri., Sept. 23    at Menomonie, 7 p.m.

Fri., Sept. 30    vs. River Falls, 7 p.m.

Fri., Oct 7         vs. Rice Lake, 7 p.m.

Fri., Oct 14       at E.C. North, 7 p.m.

Superior Spartans

2016 Football Roster

1 Andre Peters......................... 10       RB/LB

2 Nick Ferrando......................... 12       WR/DB

3 Elijah Owens.......................... 10       HB/DB

4 Drake Samarzia...................... 11       HB/DB

5 Tradel Nickelson...................... 11       HB/LB

6 Joe Eliason............................ 11       WR/DB

7 Andrew Parkinson................... 12       WR/DB

8 Luke Drougas......................... 11       QB/DB

9 Joe Carter............................. 11       RB/LB

10 Gunner Johnson.................... 12       QB/DB

11 Jordan Hicks........................ 11       WR/DB

12 Max Plunkett........................ 11       WR/DB

13 Kaleb Ullan........................... 11       WR/DB

14 David Fender........................ 10       QB/DB

15 Devin Samarzia..................... 11       WR/DB

16 Mason Ackley....................... 10       QB/DB

17 Spencer Udeen..................... 11       QB/DB

18 Ben Rhodes......................... 10       WR/DB

19 Drew Debruyne..................... 10       QB/LB

20 Kain Walberg........................ 11       HB/DB

21 Trevor Dalbec....................... 10       RB/LB

22 Chase Elder......................... 12       WR/DB

23 Max Curtis........................... 10       HB/LB

24 Kobie Kmecik....................... 11       WR/DB

25 CJ Fortune........................... 12       HB/LB

26 Seth Sutherland.................... 12       HB/LB

27 Conner Fonger....................... 10       RB/DB

28 Corey Sanders...................... 11       HB/LB

29 Caden Laurvick..................... 10       WR/DB

30 Devin Lowney....................... 10       WR/DB

31 Zach Tharge......................... 12       HB/LB

32 Blake Grasky........................ 12       HB/LB

33 Travis Sharpe....................... 12       WR/DB

34 Tre Knight............................ 12       HB/DB

35 Brady Heytens...................... 10       WR/DB

36 Grant Sorenson..................... 10       WR/DB

37 Hunter Summers................... 11       HB/LB

38 Chase Summerfield................ 10       RB/DL

39 Beau Severson...................... 10       WR/LB

40 Will Flynn............................. 11       HB/LB

41 Caelan Wick......................... 10       HB/LB

42 Luke Soderstrum................... 10       HB/LB

43 Gunnar Gronski..................... 11       RB/LB

44 Logan Stone......................... 11       RB/LB

45 Nathan Anderson................... 10       WR/DB

46 Brandon McClure................... 11       RB/LB

47 Gabriel Hackensmith.............. 11       WR/DB

48 Isaac Rios............................ 10       HB/DB

49 Noah Blohm.......................... 10       RB/LB

50 Derek Fender........................ 10       OL/LB

51 Christian Pettit...................... 12       OL/DL

52 Dylan Thorson....................... 10       OL/DL

53 Josiah McDonald................... 12       OL/DL

54 Michael LaJoie....................... 11       OL/DL

55 Lars Root............................. 10       OL/DL

56 DJ Martin............................. 11       OL/DL

57 Jack Sannes......................... 12       OL/DL

58 Tyler Cockerham.................... 11       OL/DL

59 Gabe Sexton........................ 10       OL/DL

60 Nathan Peterson.................... 10       OL/DL

61 Jarret Fernandez................... 12       OL/DL

62 Vincent Aldoco...................... 10       OL/DL

63 Kaitlyn Glenn........................ 12       OL/DL

64 Anthony Gallian..................... 12       OL/DL

65 Nick Ward........................... 10       OL/DL

66 Sam Gidley.......................... 10       OL/DL

67 Steven Nett.......................... 11       OL/DL

69 Carter Shoudy...................... 11       OL/LB

70 Sam Oosten......................... 11       OL/DL

71 Devon Sullivan Pettit............... 11       OL/DL

72 Michael Thomas..................... 11       OL/DL

73 Jackson Krull........................ 10       OL/LB

74 Dakota Caddy...................... 10       OL/DL

75 Oscar Flaherty...................... 11       OL/DL

76 Beau Severson...................... 10       OL/DL

77 Keagan Mohr........................ 10       OL/DL

78 Dylan Lowney....................... 11       OL/DL

79 Jesse Torres......................... 11       OL/DL

80 Robert Rhea......................... 12       WR/LB

81 Dominic D’Auria..................... 11       WR/DB

82 Cameron Borgh..................... 11       TE/LB

83 Nathan Tunell........................ 12       WR/DB

84 James Bronson..................... 10       WR/DB

85 Aaron Hanson....................... 12       WR/LB

86 Alex Schlais.......................... 10       WR/DB

87 Sam Kline............................ 12       WR/DB

89 Xavier Patterson.................... 10       WR/LB

90 Dakota Buchanon................... 11       WR/DB

91 Jason Patnode...................... 12       RB/LB

95 Landdon Lathrop................... 10       HB/DB

97 Nicolas Shimenek................... 12       OL/DL

98 Brahden Long....................... 10       RB/LB

99 Cody Jones.......................... 10       RB/LB

Head coach: Bob DeMeyer

Varsity assistant coaches: Aaron Anderson, Scotty Collins, Aaron Fezzey, Walter Gaulke, Sean Gallagher, Chad Johnson, Rick Kennelly, Keegan O’Neill, Rich Reder, Rob Scott and Larry Thomas.

JV coaches: Jesse Samarziya, Jesse Falter, Chris Fuhrman, Steve Hendry and Matt Johnson

Freshmen coaches: Don Polkinghorne, Mark Moselle, Scott McNorton, Nick Olson and Aaron Wakefield-Zubiate.

— — —

Superior - 2015 Results

Aug. 21      — at Merrill....................... W, 50-20

Aug. 28      — vs. Men. Falls................ W, 37-20

Sept. 4      — at Hudson.................... W, 10-7

Sept. 11    — vs. Chip. Falls............... L, 39-7

Sept. 18    — vs. Menomonie.............. W, 31-28

Sept. 25    — at River Falls................. W, 34-15

Oct. 2       — at Rice Lake.................. L, 21-17

Oct. 9       — vs. Eau Claire North........ W, 54-9

Oct. 16      — at Eau Claire Mem.......... L, 27-14

WIAA Playoffs

Oct. 23      — at Chip. Falls................. L, 28-6

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